ALMOST 2,000 Christmas shoeboxes are on their way to disadvantaged Romanian children thanks to the generosity of West Oxfordshire residents.

Volunteers at Witney Methodist Church loaded 1,928 shoeboxes full of gifts onto lorries last Sunday, all of which have travelled to orphanages in Eastern Europe via charity Teams4U.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Methodist Church sending the boxes, but it was thrown into doubt when the company supposed to transport the boxes five days before never turned up.

As a result, a church-full of volunteers, including 25 firefighters, were left waiting for more than half an hour.

But Oxford Carriers Ltd, based in Stanton Harcourt, near Witney, stepped in free of charge to ensure the kind-hearted gesture did not go to waste.

Marie Cotton, from North Leigh, helps organise the shoebox appeal in Witney with her husband Ian, and could not explain why the first attempt went so wrong.

She said: "We had a church full of firemen enjoying mince pies and cups of tea.

"But we just couldn't get through to the company that was supposed to help.

"There's no point blaming anybody, it was just one of those things."

Mr and Mrs Cotton have been involved with the initiative for the last eight years, with between 2,000 and 3,000 shoeboxes normally sent from Witney alone.

They are filled with items including toiletries, educational equipment and stuffed toys.

The appeal has been co-ordinated by Teams4U for more than 25 years and aims to benefit children living in orphanages or surviving on the streets of Eastern Europe and Africa.

Mr Cotton said: "It is difficult to quantify the impact that these shoeboxes have because to us, they are filled with small everyday items."

Mrs Cotton added: "These are places where children literally don't have any toys at all."

Families, schools and local businesses all contribute shoeboxes, with a team of volunteers checking the packages from the start of November onwards.

This year, a dedication evening was held on November 12, where visitors could admire the boxes and enjoy tea and cake.

The transport was originally meant to take place on Tuesday, November 20, but when this fell through it was moved to lunchtime on Sunday, November 25.

While the event is not religious, several members of the Methodist Church congregation helped firefighters from Witney Fire Station load the boxes onto lorries.

They were then transported to the Teams4U warehouse in Evesham, Worcestershire, where Mr and Mrs Cotton helped pack another lorry-load on Saturday.

To find out more about Teams4U visit